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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

FARMER OF THE EASTERN SLOPE              187

I shut myself up and don't even read books, but spend my hours over
the Buddhist scriptures."

Things began to look sctded with the family's safe arrival, although
Tungpo did not know yet how they were going to live after their
money was gone. His two younger sons, Tai and Kuo, were twelve
and ten. Through the courtesy of the chief magistrate, they were able
to put up at the Linkao House, later made famous by the poet. This
was an official station where government people stopped during their
voyages on the Yangtse. To a friend Su Tungpo wrote: "My house
is only about a dozen steps from the bank of the river. The beautiful
mountains on the south bank lie spread before my window, and with
the high winds and changing clouds and misty weather, the view
changes a hundred times a day. I have never had such luck before."
The place was beautiful enough, but the glamour that has been
attached to it was largely due to the poet's imagination. He saw more
in this poor litde building facing the hot sun in summer than other
tourists, who were deeply disappointed when they actually saw it. Later,
when a studio was added for his benefit, he could boast that he would
wake up from an afternoon nap, forgetting where he was, and when
the window screen was up, he could watch from his couch a thousand
sailing boats going down the river, until the water merged with the
^sky in the dista&ce.

The Linkao House might not be much, but half of the beauty oŁ
a landscape depends on the region and the other half on the man look-
ing at it. Su Tungpo, being a poet, saw and felt what the others could
not see and could not feel, even if they were in Paradise. "After a
drink and a good meal," Su wrote in his journal, "the Recluse of the
Eastern Slope leans over his desk, with white clouds on his left and the
clear river on his right. Both the outer and the inner doors are wide
open, giving a direct view of the hills and the peaks. At such a time
I sit there as if I were thinking of something and again as if I were not
thinking at all. In such a state of mind I receive so freely the bounty
of nature spread before me that I feel almost ashamed of myself.'*
A second note he wrote on this house, addressed to Fan Chen's son,
•ias a twist of sly humour. "The great river lies only a few dozen steps
below me and half of its water comes from the Omei Mountains, so
that it is almost as good as seeing our home town. The hills and the;
river, the wind and the moon, have no owner; they belong to anybody
who has the leisure to enjoy them. How would your new garden com-
pare with mine? I suppose you have the advantage of paying the
summer and autumn taxes on it, and the draft exemption tax besides,
while I don't"

But Tungpo was really hard up. He had a peculiar system of budget-

G*